Marketers Grapple With Performance Obstacles: A Look Ahead

As 2021 draws to a close, the ad industry understands that there is no return to pre-COVID days.

Tracking and targeting are all over the place as data availability fluctuates. And consumers, rather than entering search words, are using many channels to get information about products before getting close to hitting "buy."

The traditional path to purchase often begins and ends on Amazon and other marketplaces. What's a brand marketer to do?

I spoke with Kerry Curran, executive director and managing partner, performance strategy and growth at GroupM Services, US, for a look at what's ahead in 2022.

Inside Performance: What, if anything, can marketers do to understand how the consolidation of media such as Facebook and Google will impact their ad campaigns?

Kerry Curran: Consolidation with better performance data and actionable insights across channels -- and how those channels impact each other -- will allow marketers to make smarter decisions about their media investments and the impact on their business goals.

We are all trying to make better media investments. The more we can understand what placements impact performance, the smarter we can be with each invested dollar. 

IP: As ad prices continue to climb, how can marketers find new ways to stand out from their competitors without busting their budgets? 

Curran: Brands can stand out without overspending by being more flexible and innovative with their budgets. When marketers increase their comfort and nimbleness with a moving budget for testing and optimization, they can take advantage of the competition that can't get out of their own way.   

An integrated, holistic omnichannel media plan allows for budget fluidity toward the top-performing media and frequency capping, driving efficiencies while reaching new audiences.

For example, an integrated programmatic connected TV/over-the-top (CTV/OTT) program inclusive of multiple streaming networks can drive budget efficiencies by limiting over exposure and moving budgets to the top-performing partners.

In addition, applying AI optimization to programmatic display and video can leverage machine learning to optimization tactics, decreasing CPMs and saving budget that can be reinvested elsewhere. 

One of the most exciting aspects of digital and performance media is the rapid evolution of new advertising opportunities. Savvy brands are already allocating testing budgets for new ad formats, platforms, channels, and opportunities to increase target audience exposure.

Marketers that are comfortable with moderate risk while prioritizing brand safety can find cost efficiencies in undiscovered, early-mover media opportunities. Newer platforms eager to gain new brand partners often offer lower cost investment in test opportunities. 

We have clients that are hesitant to try new media opportunities because they are not proven. They miss out on both being more innovative than their competition and leveraging the lower cost of new opportunities. 

IP: Relatedly, how can marketers improve their SEO? 

Curran: The greatest improvement in SEO is driven by investment prioritization. Brands still continue to spend only a small percentage of their overall media investment in SEO.

With the future of cookie deprecation, there is increased importance on building and owning your audiences.SEO strategies focused on driving qualified traffic increase website visitors and engagement, building audience pools for retargeting and business conversions.

Tactics such as technical SEO infrastructure and audience focused content strategies require ongoing investment in experienced resources. 

IP: What is the future of the black-box AI campaign? Is there one?

Curran: Brands want performance beyond human capabilities and need AI and machine learning to achieve that. AI algorithms can outperform human optimization, working faster and smarter, leveraging data signals to find new and more cost-efficient audiences.

Proven KPI outperformance will increase trust in AI-based optimization, driving increased adoption. We will also see advances in AI to apply to more and more programmatic media channels. 

IP: Where is social e-commerce headed and what can marketers do to take advantage of consumers' growing interest in it?

Curran: Social e-commerce is booming with the evolution of shoppable ads and shoppable integrations on social platforms reducing the number of clicks and page loads between inspiration and conversion.

Prioritization of social e-commerce often gets lost between the e-commerce owners and the social owners within an organizational structure. A cross-functional task force can leverage the social team expertise with e-commerce team infrastructure knowledge. A shoppable ad is only as strong as the audience strategy behind it. Product feed management and checkout integration with retargeting and frequency capping drives improved brand experience. 

Social e-commerce goes beyond a brand to audience direct conversation. Influencer or creator marketing strategies can drive full-funnel performance with the addition of a shoppable action.

Additionally, our influencers that are also leveraging affiliate marketing partnerships, drive both new audience and customer exposure and net new sales. 


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